Charisma. Either you have it or you don’t. Right?
Nope, so very wrong. This “magnetic charm or appeal” has little to do with the characteristics of the charismatic person and everything to do with how he or she makes other people feel.
After all, someone living alone on an island cannot be charismatic. That remains to be determined by how people react to them. It is, therefore, safe to say that charisma is a behaviour rather than an inherent trait.
Communicating in a way that connects with and touches those around you is a skillset like any other. It can be learned and strengthened.
A common mistake when working on effective communication skills is an overemphasis on oneself — what you wear, how you enunciated, if you project, etc. Connecting is all about the other person — how they feel, how they perceive you, what they hear.
Audience members’ reactions to you stem from their individual personalities and experiences. To truly be heard in the way you want, you first have to know who you are speaking to.
Focus on them
It’s fair to say that putting your audience before you — asking questions and engaging them — makes them feel good, but it goes so much deeper than that.
Focusing on those around you (co-workers, friends, strangers, etc.) produces a powerful byproduct: decreased self-consciousness. It lets you be you! Focusing on yourself too much results in self-doubt and over analyzing, hindering authenticity.
Make them feel like they have your full attention by actually giving them your full attention!
The is not a lesson on eye contact, hand placement and cellphone etiquette. If you are doing all those things but are still not fully present then there is no connecting going on.
Work on being present from the start (because first impressions are key). At the very least this lets you respond thoughtfully. It also helps you remember the person in front of you — their name and story, making long-term connecting possible.
If you do not already have daily meditative or quiet time, try sitting in silence for 10 minutes a day. Keep your eyes slightly open and clear your mind. If thoughts come, notice them but let them pass. Work on quieting your mind, simply focusing on what is in front of you.
Silencing this mental noise will make it easier for you to hear those who are talking to you. As you make progress, you will notice the effect it has on others. Charisma is about letting others be seen and truly heard.
Drop your guard
Conversations between strangers tend to stay in the realm of the superficial. Be the one to take it to the next level.
Having the confidence to be real is more impressive than the ability to appear flawless. By only sharing your successes, you actually create barriers between you and your audience.
Vulnerability builds bridges, the illusion of perfection builds walls.
You don’t have to divulge your deepest, darkest secrets, just open up a little more than normal. Again, this isn’t about you either. By doing so, the person you are talking to will feel safe to open up too, making space for a connection to happen.
Once you have reached that genuine space, what you say will have an impact and be heard. Trivial conversations are forgettable at best — excruciating at worst.
Getting vulnerable is scary! But leaning into that space is at the heart of interpersonal connections that go beyond the surface. Part of vulnerability involves asking questions when you don’t understand something. Pretending to know it all when you obviously don’t, makes it difficult to go deeper.
Encouraging your speaking partner to reciprocate does not require invasive questions, just a different quality of questions. For example, “When did you move here?” generates a shallower response than “Are you happy with your decision to move here?”
Back & forth
Being heard and being a good listener are closely intertwined. Communication works best when it isn’t a one-sided affair. Speaking to a large audience poses more challenges in this regard, but it is still possible to create the sense that the audience is part of the conversation.
First, know who you are speaking to and take a moment to empathize.
Put yourself in their position and imagine what some of their experiences may have been. Then, when you are standing up on stage in front of them, ask yes or no questions that they can easily relate and react to: “Who here has ever….” “Did that make you feel fulfilled?”
In a larger group, questions will have to be simplified like this, while for one-on-one conversations questions can aim for deep, complex answers, as we mentioned above.
Another strategy for connecting and creating back-and-forth with your audience — whether during a panel discussion, a work presentation, a keynote speech or a workshop — is to call on individuals to answer questions or join you briefly onstage.
Creating interplay between you and the audience reminds them that they matter and that they are part of the discussion, not objects being talked at. You’re all on the same team.
Go on, start connecting!
All of these tips strip the barriers that naturally arise in stiff social situations. Think about it. Focusing on someone else, getting vulnerable and giving “listeners” an equal role in the conversation are three ways to help build bridges.
Any messages or ideas that you slip into the conversation after that are more likely to hold weight and stick because you have established rapport, no matter how fleeting or distant.
Speaking effectively isn’t about you, it’s about them. Remember that, and your words are sure to land.
How do you connect to people? Share with us by commenting below!
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Omozua is a Certified Emotional Mastery & Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach who empowers & prepares clients’ hearts & heads to take the journey from where they are to where they want to be by bravely accessing their own potential.